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National League’s Mark Ives gives update on big changes and speaks playoff ticket anger

National League’s general manager Mark Ives gives an update on the proposed big changes and also speaks about the recent playoff ticket anger.

A number of managers of EFL and non league level are wanting to see more promotion places in the National League with it already one of the toughest divisions to get out of.

There is currently just one automatic promotion place, the team that finished top and crown champions, and the second team that goes up has to win the playoffs.


Presenter Paul Mace brought up the subject to Mark Ives back in January 2022, delivering an interesting response to being asked if there would be more automatic promotion spots, especially after teams who in recent years have gone up, done very well and held their own in League Two with some of recent past also managing a quick promotion to the third tier or got to a cup final.

Back then, Mark Ives wanted to see a change, and went asked by the BBC in June 2022 about ‘Three-up, three-down?’, his response was: “We have made it clear three-up, three-down is something we would like to pursue,” said Ives. “Absolutely we are having open dialogue about it. It would be fairer and more fitting for our competition.

“It is a matter for the EFL and it has to have discussions with its clubs but is it something it is willing to have dialogue over? I think so.”

Grimsby’s win against Solihull in playoff final on Sunday, meant they became the first side since Cheltenham in 2015-16 to get promoted back to the EFL in the season after they went down.

Prior to 2021/22, of the previous 20 clubs to get promoted from the National League, only four – Grimsby, Macclesfield, Barnet and York – have ended up being relegated again.

This only gives more reason to the National League argument for an additional promotion place, of course we’ve seen Ives pushing for, however he reckons those in the Football League are against it unsurprisingly.

After being booed with league chairman Jack Pearce at the London Stadium, Ives “understands the frustration” around ticket pricing for the playoff final and wants to reflect on how to improve the situation for 2022/23.

As widely reported, there was controversy with ticket prices set at £40 minimum for adult prices with league sponsors Vanarama giving a helping hand, which they shouldn’t need to but did anyway, giving £20,000 to each club to help fans with costs.

“I understand the frustration,” Ives told BBC Sport. “Will I take some things back and reflect on them? Of course I will.

“What people see is the price, not the challenges we had to get to that position, what we had to do to find a venue and negotiate the best possible deal given the unknowns at that time, including not knowing who was in the final. The crowd could have been anything from 15,000 to 45,000.

“I have seen people say ‘why is it in the south?’. We approached lots of clubs in the north and in Wales. It was not easy. We need to think about how we better communicate that before the event.

“The London Stadium is an iconic ground and what an atmosphere there was. I hope people went away happier than when they walked in.”

It had been hoped that some kind of salary cap changes might be implemented in the National League by the start of next season, especially risen due to the fact that a lot of money is being spent to try and get out the division.

After having discussions, which continues, Ives reckons alterations to the regulations are unlikely in the short term, which will be good news for the likes of Wrexham, who missed out on promotion again and will get et for a 15th consecutive season away from the EFL.

“A salary cap might mean a hard cap, where everyone can spend the same amount of money irrespective of whether they have got more in the bank,” Ives said.

“Or it could be a soft one, where you can spend a percentage of your accepted income towards player and team salaries. Or is it a discussion to have secure financial regulations to ensure clubs don’t spend beyond their means?

“The league does have that already. Look at the number of clubs who have got themselves into real financial difficulty over the last 10 years, none of them have come from the National League. Why? Because they have a financial regulatory framework that allows us to deal with matters as they arise.

“What we don’t do is deal with it in the public arena. I don’t think that is right. Powers open to us are quite severe, including player embargoes. We have and would use them when people are in the early stages of financial difficulty. That has been in place for a number of years and it is paying dividends.”

World Cup 2022: Dates, draw, schedule, kick-off times, final for Qatar  tournament | Football News | Sky Sports

Ives also spoke on the World Cup schedule and how it affects the leagues. The Premier League and Championship will paused while their is not stopping for League One and Two, with that in mind, the National League is also expected to continue playing matches during the World Cup in Qatar between November and December.

On Saturday the 26th of November, there will be four group games, one of those starts at 1pm and another at 4pm, while on 3rd and 10th of December, knockout games are a 3pm kick-off and on the 17th of December the third and fourth-place match also starts at 3pm.

The National League said it will look sympathetically at any clubs who want to switch either the time or day of a specific game in order to avoid a clash. Funny the change or heart considering they didn’t seem sympathetic when Wrexham complained at the possibility of their game if they reached the playoff final being the same day as Wales played.

“We are open to look at it,” said Ives. “We are more likely to move something that clashes with England and Wales games but my position with fixtures is always to listen to both teams and see what their views are.

“If I can get into a situation where both teams are happy and it wouldn’t damage the integrity of the competition, why wouldn’t you think about it?”

You can see more on the proposed changes for the EFL and non league, plus the managers backing this by clicking HERE.

Fans reacted as the National League’s Mark Ives gives an update on the big changes and speaks about the playoff ticket anger…

@lukeCFC25: Think Grimsby prove that having more chance of returning to the EFL at the first shot would be beneficial to EFL clubs. If you get relegated from league two, you more than deserve it. But if there’s more chance of returning then why not vote for it?

@chogger5: I agree I’ve never bought the argument of Turkeys voting for Christmas you should be confident you aren’t going down and if you find yourself in that position surely an opportunity to bounce back first time is better than what we currently face?

@JayPauley3: With this in place this season it would have been Wrexham who went up. I think it’s fair to say they were deserving of it and certainly would fare better in league 2 than clubs like Stevenage.

Whilst I agree it should happen, why would they vote to relegate themselves?
Not happening any time soon, sadly.
Should make NL Prem a Nth/Sth split too.

@Mattpie95: Get talking then @EFL

@cricketcelt: The main issue at the moment is that it’s been rare in recent years that clubs without serious off-field issues have been relegated. Basically at the moment you just have to not be a complete basket case and you’re probably fine. There’s no incentive to vote for change.

@yorkcitytom: Would they be interested in 12 up, 12 down for one season followed by an immediate return to re-election? Asking for a mate.

@George26011: 3 years too late

@ForeverOUFC: Ok, if they clubs dont want an extra relegation place, why not have it like scottish league two, playoff match between league two side and national league side, makes sense to me, win win then

@Stevros1988: Should be 3 up, 3 down between League 1 and League 2 as well. Never understood why League 1 should have 4 teams go down and League 2 has 4 teams go up.

@NonLeagueMaps: 4 up and 4 down from 24 teams isn’t particularly extreme but it’d be better if it were consistent between Championship and National League.

@oafcMB: 3 up and 3 down is a must

@mrjacktanner: Reflecting on what excuses to use next year more like

@AlbzSFC: 3 up 3 down needs to happen. Ridiculous that League 2 is 4 up 2 down

@Snorkyno4: Three up three down would be a great step forward and paradoxically would make relegation potentially less damaging for L2 clubs.

@tony_waugh5: Memo to Ives and his band of merry men. There will be a play off Final next May, you have 11 months to organise. Can’t be that difficult.

@StephenRushton2: Can’t see it happening. Too many FL clubs fear the drop into NL so won’t vote for it out of self interest

@DRFC_ITEN: It is about time they altered the relegation to 3 up/3 down across the leagues. The 4 up/down from L1 to L2 is a relic of the regional days and there is more than enough quality in the National League to justify 3 coming up too. #DRFC

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